NEW YORK (Apr. 24)
More than 1,000 children of Holocaust survivors are scheduled to gather here during the Memorial Day weekend, from Sunday, May 27 through Tuesday, May 29, to “demonstrate a commitment to the legacy which we accepted from our parents at the World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem in 1981,” said Menachem Rosensaft, chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust survivors.
Rosensaft, a New York attorney, who was born in Bergen-Belsen, said the principal purpose in holding the conference “is to provide children of survivors with the intellectual and educational foundation which is essential if we are to teach others about the Holocaust.”
He pointed out that “It is not enough to know that one’s parents were in a ghetto or a camp. In order to speak publicly on the subject or otherwise participate in the numerous Holocaust-related activities, one must know the historical context in which the Holocaust occurred.” In addition, Rosensaft said, the children of survivors “have an obligation to educate ourselves about the Holocaust in order for us to be able to carry on our parents’ commemorative work of the past 39 years.”
A PRIMARY OBJECTIVE OF THE CONFERENCE
One of the primary objectives of the weekend conference will be to establish contacts among children of survivors from the United States and Canada. Rosensaft said that the International Network currently has the names and addresses of some 6,500 children of survivors in both countries. But there are many more who would no doubt be interested in learning of national and local activities.
“It is important for us to strengthen our collective identity” and to act so as to prevent any recurrence of the Holocaust, Rosensaft said. “We have learned from our parents’ tragic experience that the greatest crime is indifference to the suffering of others.”
During the past decade, the children of Holocaust survivors have created an international movement. It started when the second generation of survivors met in small groups to share their personal histories, their concerns for human rights and to educate themselves and others. In the mid-1970’s the children of survivors, then in their 20’s and 30’s, decided to break the silence in the family about the past and pledged never to be passive, or allow others to be passive, in the face of anti-Semitism or any other forms of bigotry and hatred. This was underlined in a statement of purpose issued by the International Network:
“Our central goals are to represent the shared views and interests of children of Holocaust survivors, to perpetuate the authentic memory of the Holocaust and prevent its recurrence, to strengthen and preserve our spiritual, ideological and cultural heritage, to fight all manifestations of anti-Semitism and other forms of racial, ethnic or religious hatred, and to raise our collective voice on behalf of all human beings, Jews and non-Jews alike, who suffer from discrimination, persecution and oppression anywhere in the world.”
SPECIAL LECTURES, WORKSHOPS AND PANELS
The weekend conference will feature a special lecture by Elie Wiesel, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, Rosensaft said. Other scheduled speakers include Gerhart Riegner, co-chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress, who, in 1942, as the WJC’s representative in Geneva, conveyed to the Allies the first confirmed accounts of the Final Solution; Nazi-hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld.
Also, Prof. Yehuda Bauer of the Hebrew University; Prof. Raul Hilberg of the University of Vermont; Dr. Gerson Cohen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America; Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D. Conn.), himself a son of survivors; Bruce Teicholz, who worked with Raul Wallenberg in Budapest; and Sam Bloch, president of the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations, who was a partisan in Lithuania during the war.
There will also be numerous panels and workshops on Holocaust-related issues, art exhibits, and programs in Yiddish culture, and a concert in Carnegie Hall. Most of the events of the conference will take place at Town Hall and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.